To all the true Beatniks, bibliophiles, book lovers, typographers and history enthusiasts reading this blog post, prepare yourself for a sizeable dose of awesome. While trawling the depths of the internet, a bit of downloadable Kiwiana history managed to find its way into our "Downloads" folder. Available freely as a .pdf, courtesy of the Christchurch City Libraries, we are proud to share: The 1868 Southern Provinces Alamanac.
An almanac is an annual publication that contains important information such as statistical data, astronomical information and tide charts, amongst other practical tables and tidbits. Published to document data pertinent to the entirety of the Canterbury region, this 254-page document would've had regional counterparts all throughout New Zealand as well as all throughout the world.
The almanac — in this iteration at least — is a breed of book that is more or less extinct due to its redundancy. Nowadays, we rely on the internet for real-time updates on everything that these publications covered. These books would have had to be painstakingly bound and type-set by hand, which highlights the exponentially larger investment of resources needed in order to circulate information in 1868. Despite the meticulous operations needed in order to produce them, the simple fact that these volumes were created and distributed en masse speaks of the power, value and importance of the written word in an increasingly complex and multi-faceted society.
In the ignorance of youth, it is easy to take for granted how readily-accessible information and the means to communicate are, particularly in the year 2015. Publications like this however (appropriately revived by the internet) are a poignant reminder that we are privileged enough to live in a time where we need not pay as heavy a price as our predecessors did for the pragmatisms and pleasures of the written word.